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December 12, 2022 Top Legal News of the Week

ABA Free Legal Answers exceeds quarter of a million queries

The American Bar Association web program ABA Free Legal Answers, which gives income-eligible users the ability to pose civil legal questions to volunteer attorneys, has surpassed 250,000 total questions, reflecting the continued need for pro bono civil legal aid services.

ABA Free Legal Answers improves access to legal services and expands pro bono opportunities for attorneys.

ABA Free Legal Answers improves access to legal services and expands pro bono opportunities for attorneys.

Launched in 2016, the program now encompasses 41 jurisdictions nationwide, including a 2021 federal portal that addresses veterans benefits and immigration questions. Nearly 11,500 attorneys provide virtual, no-cost civil legal assistance. Through November, the number of questions handled totaled 253,280 — more than 50,000 since the beginning of the year.

“For more than six years, ABA Free Legal Answers has provided a critical resource for civil legal matters for those who cannot afford an attorney and have nowhere else to turn,” ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross said. “We have now topped the quarter-million mark in questions and have more than 11,000 volunteer lawyers nationwide generously providing services. We are so grateful for those attorneys who have participated. But the need is still great. We urge other attorneys to step up and assist as well.”

Geared to expand legal services for low-income communities, users of the service must meet income eligibility guidelines applicable to each state. While improving access to legal services, ABA Free Legal Answers also expands pro bono opportunities for attorneys in a convenient way to match their schedules.

The types and volumes of questions have remained relatively steady over the last six years, with roughly 40% relating to family and children-related legal matters; 15% stemming from housing and homelessness; and 10% involving consumer/finance.

The program has grown in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In November alone, for example, 5,003 questions were submitted through Free Legal answers, and many appeared related to the pandemic. The volume of questions represented a 112% increase over November 2019.

Also, since Hurricane Ian hit Florida in late September, the Florida site has received 1,197 submitted questions, with many appearing to be hurricane-related. The volume represents a 33% increase over the same period in 2021.

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